- Paperback: 252 pages
- Publisher: Orbis Books; Edition Unstated edition (October 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1570756090
- ISBN-13: 978-1570756092
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.6 inches
- Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #837,837 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What's Faith Got to Do with It?: Black Bodies/Christian Souls Paperback – October 1, 2005
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About the Author
Rev. Dr. Kelly Brown Douglas is Canon Theologian at the Washington National Cathedral and Director of the Religion Program at Goucher College, Baltimore, MD, where she holds the Susan D. Morgan Professorship of Religion. Prior to coming to Goucher College she was Associate Professor of Theology at Howard University School of Divinity, Washington, DC, and served as Assistant Professor of Religion at Edward Waters College, Jacksonville, FL.
A native of Dayton, OH, Dr. Douglas was ordained in 1985 at Saint Margaret's Episcopal Church --the first black woman to be ordained an Episcopal priest in the Southern Ohio Diocese, and one of only five nationwide at the time. In 2012 she was the first to receive the Anna Julia Cooper Award by the Union of Black Episcopalians for her "literary boldness and leadership in the development of a womanist theology and discussing the complexities of Christian faith in African-American contexts." Essence magazine counts her "among this country's most distinguished religious thinkers, teachers, ministers, and counselors."
She is widely published in national and international journals. Her other books include The Black Christ, What's Faith Got to Do with It? (both from Orbis Books) as well as Black Bodies/Christian Souls, and Black Bodies and the Black Church: A Blues Slant. She is also co-editor of Sexuality and the Sacred: Sources for Theological Reflection.
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While the first part of book seems a bit heavy and academic, it does establish a new way of looking at matters of faith and analyzing what we believe about the nature of Jesus, the nature of man, and the actions that our beliefs call for us to espouse or renounce.
She wrote in the Introduction to this 2005 book, “This book began with the dogged questioning of one particularly gifted student… [who] very pointedly asked me why I am a Christian. ‘How could you, a black woman, possibly be Christian… when Christianity so often contributes to your oppression as a black and as a female?’ … I replied that I am a Christian because my grandmothers were, and it was their Christian faith that helped them to survive the harsh realities of what it meant for them to be poor black women in America… Indeed, it was a Christian faith that allowed their mothers and grandmothers to survive the brutality of slavery into which they were born. I am Christian… because it was the God of Jesus Christ that my enslaved forebears witnessed to… My response, however, was not enough for [the student]…. [Her] question coincided with my own concern to better understand the injustice perpetuated within the black church community, particularly in regard to gay and lesbian persons… what is it about Christianity that lends itself to being used in oppressive ways?... [Her} question in fact compelled me to assess theologically the feasibility of the black Christian tradition.” (Pg. xi-xiii)
She explains, “A significant assumption of this book is that Christianity’s involvement in human injustice is not always as obvious as Christians directly calling on their faith to support their crimes against humanity. Christianity’s collusion with injustice is more insidious. In order to grasp the subtle nature of Christianity’s complicity with human oppression one must have an understanding of discursive power. The late French philosopher Michel Foucault is helpful in this regard.” (Pg. 7)
She continues, “perhaps Christianity’s more dangerous involvement in human oppression is implicit. That is, the Christian theological tradition has contributed to a certain collective theological consciousness that allows for, if not sanctions, unrelenting oppression of various human beings… Thus, the prevailing premise of this book is that an influential Christian theological tradition plays a significant role in sustaining unjust power especially as it provides the theological dimension of discursive power.” (Pg. 9)
She asks, “How is it, then, that ‘church men and women’ were able to participate without remorse or fear of betraying their Christian identity in the lunching of [two black men]?... Such Christianized involvement in the ravishing of two black bodies and many more is an almost foreseeable consequence of a platonized Christian tradition… this is a tradition that has injured more than just black bodies… it no doubt contributed to early Christian persecution of the Jews and has also contributed to Christianity’s participation in the persecution of other groups such as Native Americans and women. Perhaps, the more Christianity has been used in an oppressive manner, and easier it becomes for it to be used oppressively. Therefore, Christianity’s prior tyrannical tradition of disdain for certain human bodies may also greatly contribute to Christian participation in attacks against black bodies.” (Pg. 37-38)
She suggests, “With particular respect to the Jews, Christians justified their treatment of others as a divine recompense for their participation in Jesus’ crucifixion…. Christians were able to blame the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion, while at the same time theologically rejoicing in his death. It is in the ‘rejoicing’ over Jesus’ death that the theological support for human sacrifice is found… In short, Jesus’ crucifixion with its surrounding atonement ‘mythology’ creates the possibility for Christians to persecute, indeed sacrifice, designated ‘others’ with religious impunity. The recognition of this leads us to the horror of lynching.” (Pg. 61)
She argues, “Even if there are certain factors inherent to Christianity, and even particular to Christianity’s crucifying center, that mitigate Christian participation in acts such as lynching, these factors clearly do not preclude such participation. It is for this reason that we must at least recognize the cross as an extremely troublesome, if not irredeemable aspect of Christian. While the cross in and of itself may not precipitate deadly terror, the cross invested with power does. If nothing else, the cross, when empowered, makes it almost theological irresistible for people not simply to inflict unwarranted suffering on others but also to sacrifice their very lives. The Christian cross and power thereby represent a deadly union.” (Pg. 69)
But she adds later, “That Jesus was crucified not only reaffirms God’s partiality for the oppressed; it also reifies that this partiality is much more than an impassive identification with those least regarded in society. The crucifixion unquestionably reveals a COMPASSIONATE solidarity with them. Jesus is WITH the powerless in their very dehumanizing condition, even to the point of crucifixion.” (Pg. 96)
She asserts, “Platonized Christianity essentially suggests… that reason must be freed from the imposition of sexuality. The practical consequences of this thinking are deadly for a sexualized people, in this instance, black people. For Platonized Christianity… supports white cultural debasement of black men and women as well as white domination over them… platonized Christianity demonizes the body and sexuality, therefore implying the demonization of sexualized people. Inasmuch as sexuality is considered evil, so too are oversexual black people.” (Pg. 123)
She points out, “a hermeneutic of appropriation was also employed in black people’s approach to the biblical witness. While the authority of the Bible has always been central to the black faith tradition, a hermeneutic of appropriation has been fundamental to black people’s approach to the Bible. Again, what did not accord with black people’s own aspirations regarding the treatment of their black bodies was not appropriated as authoritative within the black faith tradition. This means that not everything written in the Bible was granted authority.” (Pg. 164)
She summarizes, “the black faith tradition is distinguished by core theological themes. These themes are very enduring… they cam forth from black people’s own concrete experiences as they navigated life in a society antagonistic to their very blackness… black faith’s theological core abided by the following standards: it empowered and sustained black bodies under antagonistic social-historical conditions; it resonated with black people’s deepest asperations for life and dignity; and it reflected the continued presence of God in black people’s lives as informed by the biblical witness to God and their African theological heritage… in the significant metaprinci8ple implicit in all of the core themes: harmony.” (Pg. 201)
She concludes, “black people did not adopt the white Christianity of their white oppressors. Instead, they developed a black faith tradition that exposes the ‘hypocrisy’ of white Christianity and affirms the very sacred value of the black body… I can still answer that I am a Christian because it IS the faith of my grandmothers. The integrity of Christianity is embodied in the lives of black women as they quest for life, freedom, and dignity among the harsh realities of a society that disdains their very black female bodies.” (Pg. 217-218)
As always, Douglas’s books are provocative and challenging; this book will be of great interest to those concerning with Womanism, Black Theology, contemporary Spirituality, and African-American studies.